Stay Out of the Water: Does a Prehistoric Shark Still Live in the Ocean?

There is said to be a shark that is scarier than the one from the movie Jaws which is as large as the biggest whale. But this isn’t a monster from a sci-fi movie, it’s real. This kind of shark lived in the oceans thousands of years ago and it’s possible that it still lives in the deepest waters even today.

Specialists call the ancient shark Carchardon megalodon or Carchalocles megalodon. It’s official name in literature is C. megalodon. This shark’s monstrous jaws were much bigger than the length of a human body. If it hunted humans, we would have been like small fish for it. Megalodon was perhaps the biggest hunter in the oceans and seas. Its name comes from Greek and means ”big tooth”.

Man sitting on Carcharodon megalodon jaws. Restoration of fossil shark. Carcharodon megalodon. Basal Miocene South Carolina.

Man sitting on Carcharodon megalodon jaws. Restoration of fossil shark. Carcharodon megalodon. Basal Miocene South Carolina. ( Public Domain )

The gigantic shark lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, since the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene period. Researchers suggest that it was a cruel hunter which needed to eat more than any other animal of the Cenozoic Era.

A Shark Which Was a Real Monster

Fossils of megalodon have discovered in many parts of the world for example: Cuba, Jamaica, Australia, Puero Rico, Malta, India, Canary Islands, Denmark, and Antwerp in Belgium. A fossil of its jaw discovered in North Carolina, USA has shown how impressive and horrific the animal was. According to Patrick J. Schembri and Staphon Papson, the megalodon was around 24-25 meters (79 – 82 ft) long. However, it is usually said that it wasn’t bigger than 18 meters (59 ft). Different teams of researchers also conclude that it could have been a little bit smaller or bigger than these measurements.

Size comparison of Carcharodon carcharias (Great White Shark, 5.2m (17.1 ft.)), Rhincodon typus (Whale Shark, 9.7m (31.8 ft.)) and conservative/maximum estimates of the largest known adult size of Carcharodon megalodon (15-20m (49.2-65.6 ft.)), with a human (1.8m (5.9 ft.)). ( Scarlet23/CC BY SA 3.0 )

Nevertheless, the largest known megalodon specimen had a tooth which was 184.1 millimeters (7.25 in) in length. The bite force of the megalodon was at least six times stronger than that of a great white shark.

Megalodon was also very heavy. An analysis of about 175 discovered specimens suggests that they could have been between 48 metric tons to 103 metric tons. Its jaws were not only huge, but also very dangerous. The megalodon had to eat tons of fish per day – making it one of the greatest killers in the history of the Earth.

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation. Specimens and their respective collection numbers. One specimen (CTPA 6671) was not available to photograph.

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation. Specimens and their respective collection numbers. One specimen (CTPA 6671) was not available to photograph. (Catalina Pimiento, Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, Gordon Hubbell/ CC BY 2.5 )

Renaissance records describe discoveries of giant fossil teeth, but show that the people imagined that they had to belong to huge dragons and snakes. In 1667, Nicolaus Steno from Denmark recognized the teeth as a shark’s. In his book titled The Head of a Shark Dissected he presented the first illustration of the tooth of megalodon.

The depiction of a shark's head by Nicolaus Steno in his work The Head of a Shark Dissected.

The depiction of a shark’s head by Nicolaus Steno in his work The Head of a Shark Dissected. ( Public Domain )

Is the Scary Shark Still Alive?

Some people believe that they’ve seen megalodon during the 20th and 21st century. There are several pictures of possible megalodon, but many of them are altered. A few years ago, Discovery Channel showed a picture which shocked many scientists. The description said that it was a photograph taken in Cape Town in 1942 by a photographer from a Nazi U-boot submarine.

The picture showed the submarine and what may be a huge shark behind the ship. It was also presented in a movie which was released in August 2013. However, according to several journalists, all of the ”scientists” who appeared in the movie were probably actors who were paid to support the megalodon story. The producers received a lot of criticism, but the megalodon tale became fascinating for millions of people once more. It also resurfaced the question if the huge sharks still live in the oceans.

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